Sustainable Fabric: The Quick and Dirty about Cotton

Sustainable Fabric: The Quick and Dirty about Cotton

Often when we think of sustainable fabric with natural fibers, we think of cotton. It is grown in America and marketed as one of the softest and most useful materials for our everyday needs. Many consider it a sustainable fabric choice for clothing and will choose it over synthetics and other blends. So, a label that says 100% Cotton might instill consumer confidence in the product. And it may communicate to the consumer that the product is safe and reliable. But, that’s a dangerous assumption to make.

What You Need to Know About Conventionally Grown Cotton, the World’s Dirtiest Crop

Despite it’s reputation as a natural choice for sustainable fabric and clothing, cotton is highly contaminated. Yes, you read that right! Cotton is NOT the product it is marketed to be.

A report by The Environmental Justice Foundation reveals the routine use of harmful chemicals, including nerve agents and neurotoxins, on cotton crops. And, according to the Organic Trade Association, as reported in an article by Dr. Joseph Mercola, “Cotton is considered the world’s ‘dirtiest’ crop due to its heavy use of insecticides, the most hazardous pesticide to human and animal health.”

He also reports, “Cotton covers 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world’s insecticides, more than any other single major crop. Aldicarb, parathion, and methamidopho, three of the most acutely hazardous insecticides to human health as determined by the World Health Organization, rank in the top ten most commonly used in cotton production. All but one of the remaining seven most commonly used are classified as moderately to highly hazardous. Aldicarb, cotton’s second best selling insecticide and most acutely poisonous to humans, can kill a man with just one drop absorbed through the skin, yet it is still used in 25 countries and the US, where 16 states have reported it in their groundwater.”

It’s Not Just the Crops

However, the problems with toxins in the cotton industry are not limited to just the cultivation of the crop.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) explains, “As an aid in harvesting, herbicides are used to defoliate the plants, making picking easier. More chemicals [are used] in the process of bleaching. Stain and odor resistance, fireproofing, and static- and wrinkle-reduction. Some of the softeners and detergents leave a residue that will not totally be removed from the final product. Chemicals often used for finishing include formaldehyde, caustic soda, sulfuric acid, bromines, urea resins, sulfonamides, halogens, and bromines.”

Our skin is our largest organ and absorbs what we put on our bodies. It makes sense that we would want to avoid this kind of toxic exposure for ourselves and our children. So, what can we do?

Sustainable Fabric

Organic Cotton is a Sustainable Fabric and Safer Alternative

According to the Organic Trade Commission, “Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. In addition, federal regulations prohibit the use of genetically engineered seed for organic farming. All cotton sold as organic in the United States must meet strict federal regulations covering how the cotton is grown.

It’s true that clothing made from organic cotton will most likely cost you more. The cultivation of sustainable crops require investments and methods outside of  conventional industry practices.  This means greater costs and lower margins for the producers. Organic cotton farmers are using sustainable practices in their efforts to protect the environment and avoid chemical use. They are also maintaining soil fertility, preserving biodiversity and conserving water.

Always Choose Organic Cotton for Babies and Children

Consumers seeking more sustainable options might take these factors into consideration when making purchasing decisions. Some think it’s worth the extra cost to avoid the health and environmental problems that come with conventionally grown cotton. But, you might be limited in your ability to afford sustainable products in all of your clothing purchases.  If this is the case, please consider organic cotton over conventional for your babies and young children. Because of their developing brains and organs, they are more susceptible than adults to the harm of these toxins.

We’re committed to guiding you in your sustainable lifestyle journey. Click HERE to get free information, resources and updates from Lady Farmer.

Sustainable Fabrics

Sustainable Shopping with Lady Farmer

Slow Living: Sowing the Seeds

Slow Living: Sowing the Seeds

What is slow living?

slow living

You might be hearing this term more and more lately, along with slow food and slow fashion.  So what’s with this slow movement? What does it mean, and do we need it? If so, why?

At Lady Farmer, our understanding of slow living comes from making conscious choices about how we live our lives. It’s about paying attention to how we spend our time, money and resources. And, in doing so we take a step back from the industrialized systems that provide our daily needs. In observing  our own consumer habits we can evaluate our own quality of life.

Slow living

Front Porch Days

It’s not difficult to recognize  how quickly our society has left slow living behind.  Some of us only have to look back a generation or two  to recall a different era. We hear about a time when people whiled away the hours sitting on the front porch. Yet it wasn’t that they had less to do. People  weren’t dependent on factory farms thousands of miles away for their food. Nor did they require chain stores for cheap clothing made overseas by impoverished workers. It has been less than a century since many Americans fed and clothed themselves for the most part.

Fast forward to now, when practically every single thing we use is bought from a store. Most of these things are used up or broken in a relatively short period of time. Then they are tossed into the land of “trash,” that place society assumes is the endpoint of our concern.

In the Name of Sustenance

Our food supply, too, has long left the realm of self-production.  It now has much more connection to a factory or a lab than the land. Food today has been sprayed, machinated, wrapped, frozen, fortified, processed, sealed, flown around the globe, clam-shelled and shelved. Then we come along and happily pull these things from the supermarket aisles in the name of sustenance.

As for clothing, almost everything available today has been produced at a terrible cost to the environment. In addition, millions of  overworked and underpaid laborers work in deplorable conditions to fuel the toxic apparel industry. This broken system perpetuates our manic, throw- away habits while barely making a dent in our pocketbooks.

The Slow Living Choice

Slow living might have a different feel or  pace, but it is not the same as leisure. The slow living  choice to feed and clothe ourselves closer to the source might not take less time, work or money. In some instances it might take more. Those that have made the conscious decision to eat more locally know this. It takes effort and organization to seek out local sources and very often requires us to pay more. Growing your own is a wonderful option but there is a great deal of effort and energy involved. Yet, this is the choice we make over driving to the megamarket and buying packaged and processed food.

slow living

Likewise, sustainably sourced and produced clothing certainly will cost more in terms of dollars and cents. Yet this is the choice for the land, our water, our fellow humans and our own health.  Many people aren’t able to buy clothes made from responsible sources and well paid workers. The prevailing fast fashion system has squeezed the life out of this model. The availability of ethically produced apparel is extremely limited, putting the many consumers in a position with little choice. We encourage slow living practices such as buying less, buying thrift and participating in clothing swaps. It’s a great way to have fun and encourage others to dress sustainably.

The Hand that Feeds Us

Our goal in exploring the idea of slow living is to identify where we have become separated from “the hand that feeds us,” so to speak. In embracing slow living,  we want to see ourselves apart from mass production and consumption.  Our desire is to hear our own voice inside the noisy torrent of information, and seek out the things we truly value. In that space is where we reclaim our allotted time on the planet and create our truly authentic lives.

slow living

To help you in your own exploration of slow living, we provide information, resources, videos, courses and products. We also have our own, in house designed, responsibly and locally manufactured apparel line. We hope you’ll use these only in ways that seem helpful to you, remembering that you alone are the one true expert on your own life. So come join us in whatever way feels right.

It’s good to be waking up.

Mary Kingsley

Sustainable Lifestyle: The Lady Farmer Way

Sustainable Lifestyle: The Lady Farmer Way

What is sustainable living?

We most often think of sustainability  in terms of protecting rather than depleting our natural resources.  Reducing  our trash and avoiding plastic are positive steps towards living a more sustainable life. Eating local foods, driving less and choosing responsibly sourced clothing and household products are key as well.

Yet sustainable living is also about reducing the stresses and demands that deplete your energy and vitality.  It requires balance in your personal resources, your personal time, energy, creativity and passion.  Having respect for your spaces, your home and work environments are all part of it as well. It’s about creating the systems that work for you in living the life you want.Sustainable

 

Sustainable Simplicity

We live in a consumer economy, so that we generally have to buy everything we use. Yet as a culture, we have taken this behavior far beyond our basic needs for food, clothing and shelter.  Much of our time and space are taken up doing and acquiring things that are beyond our needs. Consequently, we feel we never have enough time in the day and our surroundings are cluttered and chaotic.

Sustainable simplicity means having everything you need for your safety, comfort and well being without all the excess. When we’re willing  to pay attention, we can make choices that enhance rather than deplete our quality of life. Local food, responsibly sourced clothing and carefully chosen home and lifestyle products can shift our lives towards sustainable simplicity.  When we’re willing to honestly observe our own consumer decisions, we can see where change is necessary. Sustainable living has to do with making conscious choices every day.

sustainable

A Sustainable Earth Home

As for this earth we all share, sustainable living means waking up to the impact of our human behavior.  

A healthy, balanced life necessarily includes some degree of cleanliness, order and respect for where we live. Most of us don’t dump nasty things in our living room or poison our own wells. Nor do we  burn things that create bad air in the house, drop trash wherever or destroy things that happen to be in our way.

Yet that’s exactly the way humans have behaved on the planet.

A Way of Life

Sustainable living was once a way of life for our ancestors. It was the way of survival.  Yet somewhere along the line, we began to think, act and live as if we are separate from nature.  As the dominant species, we have behaved as if it all exists for our own use and benefit, that resources were there to be used up for our immediate gratification and that it doesn’t matter what mess we leave behind.

I like to take a hopeful view of this. Perhaps humanity is moving closer to a tipping point when our unconscious behavior is no longer the norm. We’ve all seen pictures of the plastic waste island the size of Texas.  Or, heard the news that Cape Town is out of water. And, we’ve all had friends or family taken way too soon from some cancer that was once rare, but has increased exponentially.

Real Food Doesn’t Come from a Box

Maybe more of us are teaching our children that real food doesn’t come from a box and that single use plastic is not a sustainable option.  Maybe we’re all learning to get our hands in the dirt more and sometimes walk barefoot, look at the sky instead of our phones, consider what we put in and on our bodies actually does make a difference.

We created Lady Farmer to demonstrate, educate and inspire you in your personal expression of sustainable simplicity. We also offer sustainable choices in clothing and lifestyle products. Please visit our website for a wealth of resources and information, and our online shop for  sustainable shopping! While you’re there, sign up for our newsletter so you can stay updated on all of our latest news and offerings, including the print edition of our soon- to -be- released book,  The Lady Farmer Guide to Slow Living; Creating Sustainable Simplicity Close to Home.

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Mo Moutoux at Moutoux Orchard

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Mo Moutoux at Moutoux Orchard

We are so excited to introduce Mo this week, not only as our Lady Farmer Spotlight but as one of our dynamic workshop leaders for the upcoming Lady Farmer Slow Living Conference Retreat, Nov. 9th-11th, 2018. She will be helping attendees plan for cultivating healthy kitchen gardens of their own. Early Bird Registration spots are available until they run out!

All photographs in this post are taken by Lise Metzger of the blog Grounded Women, where you can find a few different in-depth pieces on Mo, with the striking photography that is sampled here. You can also follow @groundedwomen for more!

 

Every year we marvel at the ecosystem of our farm- delicate yet powerful- and the privilege, and responsibility, of our role in it.

Mo Moutoux owns and manages Moutoux Orchard, a diverse sustainable farm with her husband, Rob. Located in Purcellville, Virginia, they operate a unique whole-diet CSA program and raise livestock, vegetables, fruit, and dairy. Their goal is to reclaim our food—from field to kitchen— and provide healthy, whole foods for our local community. They are committed to healthy food, healthy animals and believe in the power of healthy soil and community.

Mo fell in love with farming while in graduate school for cultural anthropology.

I knew there was nothing I wanted to do more than get my hands in the dirt and grow food.

What inspires you?

There is an eternal optimism that comes naturally to farmers. It is something that makes (spring!) such a joy. Of course these seeds that we are planting will grow great crops. Maybe the best yet. Of course the berries will be delicious. Of course we will grow loads of great grass, and our animals will be healthy, happy, and well fed. We flourish on the hope found in a seed.

As farmers, we are managing an ecosystem. Every year our goal is to see that ecosystem and its inhabitants through another cycle of birth, growth, death, decay, and rebirth. Every year we marvel at the ecosystem of our farm- delicate yet powerful- and the privilege, and responsibility, of our role in it.

What does being a “Lady Farmer” mean to you?

There are so many women who devote their lives to growing food for themselves, their families, and their communities. I think we, specifically white Americans, forget that most of the rest of the world is agrarian and that most of that work is done by women. And it is hard. Really hard work. You are subject to the whims of the natural world and we are so disconnected from Mother Natures power in the rest of our lives. These women deserve our respect and admiration!

Any advice for aspiring Lady Farmers, especially those who aren’t able to actually farm?

Join a CSA! Commit to supporting small, family farms and commit to eating locally and seasonally! Shop at your local farmers market and talk to your farmer! Know your farmer and KNOW YOUR FOOD! You’ll feel better, too!

Thank you, Mo! Follow along for more of her story at @moutouxorchards and check out their website!

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Caitlin at Moonflower Farm

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Caitlin at Moonflower Farm

caitlin-robinson-sungold-flower-co-lady-farmerKnowing that everything I do in the garden is all connected, all leading to witnessing that bloom, is what keeps me going.

Caitlin Robinson is co-owner of Moonflower Farm and co-founder of Sungold Flower Co. They are (also!) located in Montgomery County’s beautiful Ag Reserve, about an hour outside DC. She and her husband grow flowers, veggies, and raise chickens on their 2 acre property, with their 4 children (ages 2, 3, 5, and 7).

Last year, in collaboration with Anna Glenn, she formed Sungold Flower Co. which is based out of Rocklands Farm in Poolesville, MD. Using their own seasonal blooms, as well as foraged and locally sourced material, they create arrangements for 30+ weddings and events from April until November. They also sell at market and operate a small flower CSA.

I always loved having my hands dirty. Growing up in the suburbs of DC, I spent most of my childhood in our little back yard making potions or in the woods identifying different trees and plants. I’ve always been fascinated by watching a seed grow, and by the changing of the seasons in general.

In college, she started working in the produce department at an organic market, learning every day about sustainable farming and local food. A few years later, she and her husband Tim bought their property, a 1930’s Cape Cod with just over 2 acres of blank slate. They did a “practice garden” that first season and welcomed their first child. For the next few years, they ran a small CSA with about 12-15 families. They decided to take a break after their third baby was born, growing on more of a “homestead” level, sharing the surplus with friends and family but without the pressure of having to deliver a certain volume each week to shareholders. Tim has always worked a full-time job so they were farming in their spare time.

In 2016, along with a few other local growers, they helped start a farmer’s market here in our small town as an outlet for all of the extra goods. Around that time, Caitlin began helping Anna with her wedding flowers at Rocklands Farm (another local farm, winery, and wedding venue) and she completely fell in love with growing and arranging. When they decided to team-up full time, she felt like she had landed exactly where she belonged.

The combination of science and art is the most energizing thing for me.

caitlin-robinson-sungold-flower-co-lady-farmer

Why do you do what you do? What is your inspiration? What keeps you going when the going gets tough?

BEAUTY. Plain and simple. I love how flowers look at every stage of growth, but when they finally bloom and you then get to share that with others…I mean, there’s nothing like it. I’m inspired by the changing of the seasons, and how the landscape and the garden is never exactly the same from one week to the next.

Knowing that everything I do in the garden is all connected, all leading to witnessing that bloom, is what keeps me going. You can’t cut corners. If you don’t plant the seed, if you don’t water it, if you don’t make sure it gets ample sunshine, if you don’t prep the bed, if you don’t support the flower…you don’t get the flower! Its kind of like motherhood in that way (or any relationship, really!). All the time and effort you put in is an investment in a beautiful thing. How could you possibly give up on that?

Farming is hard. Every day, you’re using your mind and your muscles and at the height of the season, there is something to do from sun-up to sun-down and you’re constantly moving. A lot of the time, you’re working by yourself.

Being a farmer is something I’m super proud of. Its a term that I wasn’t always comfortable using early on, I think because I felt like it needed to be earned. Farming is hard. Every day, you’re using your mind and your muscles and at the height of the season, there is something to do from sun-up to sun-down and you’re constantly moving. A lot of the time, you’re working by yourself. But I feel like we have such a great community of like-minded farmers here in the Ag Reserve (and beyond). And every farmer I’ve ever met has always been so generous in sharing their knowledge, their experience, their processes.

As far as my role in the community, right now I’m so proud that I get to feed people’s souls with beautiful flowers. Anna and I are privileged to share what we love with couples on their special day. We have plans this season for sharing flowers with people who might enjoy them most…people in our community who might need some extra love in their days. In the future I hope I can teach and inspire others, but with all that I have on my plate, its not a major priority for me at the moment. I hope to leave a healthier Earth for my children though. We all must strive for that.

caitlin-robinson-sungold-flower-co-lady-farmer

Thoughts on Slow Living:

Real talk: “slow living” often feels like the exact opposite of what I’m doing right now. I have 4 small children, a fledgling flower business to run, thousands of tiny plant babies, a home that I prefer to not be in shambles…so many things demand my attention all day, every day. So in order to not feel like I’m failing at “slow living”, I’ve begun to re-frame it for myself.

Slow living is mindful living. How you manifest that within the framework of your lifestyle is up to you. For me, that means that I try to feed my family whole, locally grown foods. It means that I try to be informed about the consumer products that we bring into our home. It means that I’d rather my kids play outside in the fresh air and build forts in the woods. Do they know their way around the Netflix menu? You bet. Do we eat cereal for dinner sometimes? Of course, I’m not Superwoman. I’m just looking for balance. And giving myself grace along the way.

caitlin-robinson-sungold-flower-co-lady-farmer

Slow living is being present. Sometimes, all I get is one minute to feel the sun on my face and feel gratitude. But I grab that minute and I hold it in my heart. I’m always reminded of this Kurt Vonnegut quote:

“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

It truly is as simple as that. Its accessible to everyone. It has to be.

And who knows…maybe someday my version of slow living will include spending the entire day in my hypothetical, sun-filled back yard pottery studio whilst sipping sustainably sourced chai lattes…today is not that day. And that’s ok.

caitlin-robinson-sungold-flower-co-lady-farmer

Advice for Aspiring Lady Farmers

If you’re thinking about going into farming, seriously go for it. Start a little garden where ever you can. You’ll be surprised at how much you can grow in a small space! Read all the farming books you can. Make friends with other growers. Look for workshops and volunteer opportunities in your area. If you’ve got the time, try to apprentice under an experienced farmer. Part of me wishes that Tim and I had been able to do that early on, but on the flip side, having our full-time jobs after college is what enabled us to be able to buy land here in Montgomery County and I’m really proud of that.

For everyone who wants to support farms as much as possible, just remember that you always have a choice! Whether you’re shopping for ingredients for a weeknight dinner or the flowers for your wedding, YOU HAVE A CHOICE. What a gift to be able to use your dollars to vote for the kind of world you want to live in. When you support local farms, makers, and doers, you are helping to shift the marketplace to something more sustainable, authentic, and accessible.

 Who inspires you? 

I admire anyone who is bold enough to follow their dreams.

caitlin-robinson-sungold-flower-co-lady-farmer

Thank you, Caitlin! Follow along for more of her story at @sungold_flower_co and check out their website!

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Lauren at Raleigh’s Hillside Farm

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Lauren at Raleigh’s Hillside Farm

Meet Lauren Rudersdorf, one half of Raleigh’s Hillside Farm. She farms on seven acres of leased family land outside of Evansville, Wisconsin with her husband Kyle. They are in their sixth season of production growing high quality, organic vegetables for their growing CSA and area restaurants. In 2016, they added their first part-time employee to their operation and in 2017 scaled up to having two part-time folks. This year, they are adding two kickass female powerhouses (with many years of experience) to their farm team!

lady-farmer-leek-and-carrot

I do what I do because I know there is a better future out there. Our food system is beyond broken and farmers around the world are working tirelessly for too little money and next to no respect. Those tides are changing and I know my voice is an important one in this movement.

Lauren’s Story:

I grew up on a diversified, conventional family farm my whole life, but I don’t think my farm story can really begin there because I didn’t really understand or appreciate any of it at that moment in time. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my childhood and I loved where I was raised in beautiful southern Wisconsin, but I never really grasped the complexity of the way my parents earned a living. I never comprehended the love and the passion that fueled them. I often saw their farming way of life as inconvenient: far from everyone, dependent on elements outside their control and too much work for not enough money.

In 2007, I graduated high school and moved away, sure that there were “much bigger” things in store for me than life on the farm. I started college at a private school in Ohio and traveled a ton. I met amazing people and learned so much about our broader world, but after two full years away I realized how totally and completely in love with the Wisconsin rural way of life I really was. I loved all the places I visited and all the inspiring people I met in those two years, but nothing felt quite as right as home.

I moved back to Wisconsin, fell in love with a hard-working, soil-loving, passionate-as-hell Wisconsin man, transferred to the College of Agriculture & Life Science at the University of Wisconsin (the same school my mom had graduated from twenty years prior) and began to study public health, food systems and community sociology.

It was a couple short years later that my now husband and I learned about the concept of CSA farming: a style of farming the worked endlessly to connect people to their food again. We took a leap of faith in 2013, borrowed some land from my parents and dove right in to starting a farm of our own. The rest is history I suppose.

Why farming?

I do what I do because I know there is a better future out there. Our food system is beyond broken and farmers around the world are working tirelessly for too little money and next to no respect. Those tides are changing and I know my voice is an important one in this movement. That’s the altruistic reason I farm. But the reality is, try as I might to fight it from time to time, I cannot NOT farm. I love to build things. I love to work outdoors. I love to watch things grow. I love working alongside my husband and dreaming towards a better world with him. I love eating good food and teaching people how to cook healthy, nourishing meals. I love being part of the good in this complicated, messy world. I love the simplicity of putting something good on the plates of the people in my community. I suppose that means the passion fuels and inspires me, but I’d be lying if I said sometimes I don’t get broken and defeated from time to time. I’m not certain what keeps me going. I think its my husband and the strength of my relationships. I’m surrounded by immense generosity, kindness and support. I couldn’t do what I do without my friends, family, partner, farming friends and amazing customers. They lift me up in the hard times. They keep me going.

For me slow living is all about making time for the things of value: our minds, our bodies, our heart, our relationships. This means eating well and nourishing our bodies, taking time to read and learn, listening to music, taking time for the people that matter to us, working our bodies in ways that are healthy, meditating, loving, experiencing, indulging from time to time, being present.
Essentially I think that to live slowly means leaving space and time for the things that matter; not getting rushed from one thing to the next without thought. Slow living means living intentionally. For someone like me, who thrives in chaos and is inspired by stimulation, it probably doesn’t look slow at all. I don’t think anyone who looks at my life or follows me on social media would ever think I live slowly, but its a daily practice of taking time to slow down and leave time for thought.

 

 

Advice for future Lady Farmers

For those thinking of going into farming: Get a tribe and hold them close. Be vulnerable with your community and ask for help. We’re not meant to always be strong or do anything on our own. This thing we’re building is broader than us and we need to learn to lean hard on the folks who support us. I’m so grateful to have friends stronger than me to teach me that lesson.

For those wanting to support this movement without farming themselves: Just know your farmer and learn what it means to truly support local. Don’t fall for the gimmicks. If it doesn’t take a little work, it isn’t building community. Be a fan, be a walking billboard for the farms you support, be a voice in your local community for a better way of doing things. Stand up for a better future and a better world.

Who inspires you?

My mother, my grandmother, my aunts, my best friend and fellow farmer Bethanee Wright, my off-farm boss Kimberlee Wright, my friends and mentors Lisa Kivirist and Kriss Marion, all the lady farmers who came before me.

To live slowly means leaving space and time for the things that matter; not getting rushed from one thing to the next without thought. Slow living means living intentionally.

Thank you for sharing, Lauren!

Be sure to follow Lauren & her team on their journey via Instagram & Facebook

Lauren also keeps a blog filled with incredible recipes and stories – make sure you check it out!

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Amanda at Plow and Stars Farm

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Amanda at Plow and Stars Farm

amanda-plow-and-stars-farm

Farming challenges me intellectually, physically and spiritually, every year and every season. I can’t imagine another profession where I could be learning every moment, where every year is another layer of the onion, an invitation to go deeper, do more, learn more.

Amanda is the lead farmer at Plow and Stars Farm located in Seneca, Maryland (next door to Lady Farmer HQ!). It’s a family operation that includes two awesome kids – Jonah (age 14) and Sadie (age 8).

amandan-plow-and-stars-farm

Amanda began her career as a pre-med student working at a clinic for malnourished children and their families. While working to combat the symptoms of the disparities in access to nutritious food, she found her calling at the source: in farming. She worked as a community garden organizer and educator, a farmer at a homeless shelter for pregnant and parenting teens and their children, a farm apprentice at a beautiful educational farm outside of Boston, the urban agriculture manager at The Food Project, a farmer at a farm owned by a Buddhist college in Boulder Colorado, and the manager at Waltham Fields Community Farm for a decade before starting her own farm with her husband Mark in late 2014.

The realization that many families in my own city lacked the resources and/or knowledge to provide healthy food for themselves, combined with my growing awareness that I didn’t want to spend my days in a hospital or office, put me on the path to farming.

amanda-plow-and-stars-farm

Reflections on farming, sustainability, and her role as a Lady Farmer

Farming challenges me intellectually, physically and spiritually, every year and every season. I can’t imagine another profession where I could be learning every moment, where every year is another layer of the onion, an invitation to go deeper, do more, learn more. The goal of being part of the creation of a healthy food system that provides nutritious, thoughtfully-raised food to people of all income levels and backgrounds is what continues to inspire and drive me as a farmer. I love feeding my community. I love the return on that investment in soil and sweat and tears, whether it’s goodwill, a box of canned tomatoes, a thank-you card from a 4-year-old, or the satisfaction of seeing a child take a big bite out of a turnip. I love growing food that people recognize, appreciate, cook up like their grandmothers did. I love raising animals that do what animals are supposed to do — graze, root, breathe fresh air, play and rest.

Ecological, economic, and personal sustainability are things that we are always striving for on our farm and in our lives. I feel like we are still working out what that means for us on our farm — particularly the personal part. What is the scale that will enable us to make a little income, contribute in a meaningful way to our community, and get a little break every once in a while? What are the products that are most fun for us to create? How do we bring joy into the world along with the food that we raise? And how do we do that in a way that does the least harm, and in fact maybe in a way that creates a little healing in the world? That’s sustainability to me.

I think that as I get a little older I’m re-thinking my role — I’m not the mother of tiny kids anymore, so that means I have a little more time and should have more to offer — but I definitely still feel like a learner. The term “Lady Farmer” doesn’t really connect with me because I have never felt much like a “lady” — I’m a hardworking woman with lots of experience to share and lots of things still to learn. I long for community though — we had a beautiful community of farmers in Massachusetts that I feel like I have yet to recreate here in Maryland. But it’s coming, slowly, and it’s easy to get stuck in your own day-to-day, especially if that’s farming, and not make those connections a priority — but they’re so critical especially as we get older!

Advice for Aspiring Lady Farmers

GO FOR IT. You can do it. Find a mentor and learn as much as you can from her. Become a farmer. Do it your way. Don’t be afraid to start your own business, or to work for someone else — both are totally fine and have their own joys and pitfalls. Support farms and woman farmers by buying local. Make a personal connection with the people that produce your food, flowers, as many products as you can. Take pride in doing more with less, enjoying the incredible bounty that you can find close to home. Give up labels — “organic” isn’t as important as we’d like it to be, especially if we can have a conversation with someone whose practices we might learn go beyond that label. Raise your children (if you have them) to be fierce advocates for justice and peace and restoration, whether ecological or social. Make your own beauty.

Who inspires you?

Lee Langstaff. She’s incredible. Kevin Bowie. Harriet Tubman. Lin-Manuel Miranda. I’m searching for role models who are middle-aged women to help me take the next step in my own life too.

Thank you Amanda!

For more of her farming journey, follow Amanda on Instagram & Facebook!

 amanda-plow-and-stars-farm

Take pride in doing more with less, enjoying the incredible bounty that you can find close to home.

 

 

 

 

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Lauren at Bloomsbury Farm

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Lauren at Bloomsbury Farm

bloomsbury-farm-lady-farmer-lauren

Being a lady farmer in my community has opened up opportunity for me to share my story, put food on many tables, and be a listener and provider.

Lauren holds a bachelor’s in social work and a master’s in management. She couples her background in social work with a life-long desire to cultivate and provide the highest-quality organic produce while educating her community about the land and the importance of the food we eat. She also has a baby girl named Palmer, pictured below.

Lauren built Bloomsbury Farm in Smyrna, Tennessee from the ground up, and started by selling her organic vegetables and sprouts at area farmers markets.  Since those early days in 2009, the farm has expanded, producing a wide array of fresh vegetables, fruits, sprouts, and herbs for the markets, local businesses, and wholesalers in and around Nashville and the greater region.

At Bloomsbury, lots of team members from markets girls to accounting and harvest crew make it all work. It takes a village to grow and move produce…365 days of the year growing and selling. Bloomsbury provides a CSA, wholesale market, restaurants, and farmers market.

Lauren started small putting seeds in the ground with her father who has a botanical background. She would go to a small farmers market with items she couldn’t sell to chefs she already knew. “The relationships started there and I was hooked growing food for creative people! Knowing what they were doing with it at home was so exciting. Growing unique varieties and fun colors really got people talking and one thing led to another with the addition of a CSA program and more food to chefs Bloomsbury was in many homes and restaurants,” she remembers. 

Reflections on why she does what she does, living slow, and Lady Farmers –

WHY…I am simply feeding people. In more ways than one it feeds me too and people who eat Bloomsbury are family and it really is a close relationship.Teaching my daughter how to grow good food and take care of the earth is a huge reason why too. Hard work does pay off and farming brings the appreciation of seasons and that the hard times don’t last forever.

Slow living to me is the understanding of time and respecting the day. I am very sun motivated so up with the sun and down with the sun. Do what you can with the day. I imagine a fast living to be work at all hours and not to ever be present. We take long walks on the farm and really listen to nature.

bloomsbury-farm-lady-farmer-lauren

Sustainability is being able to make a smaller circle and giving back to those who work so hard with the farm. The small circle is keeping all needs close and building your own compost and saving your own seeds and not having to go elsewhere for as much as possible.

bloomsbury-farm-lady-farmer-lauren

I hope to teach Palmer and other aspiring lady farmers that it can be done.

Being a lady farmer in my community has opened up opportunity for me to share my story and put food on many tables and be a listener, and provider. The farm has become a place of gathering and sharing and my hope is that it will continue.

bloomsbury-farm-lady-farmer-lauren

Advice for Aspiring Lady Farmers

All the lady farmers out there…start small and find a niche. Support a lady farmer with all the positive words and by purchasing our farm goods. You can farm a community and gather people for good that can be done anywhere.Advice for aspiring Lady Farmers

Who inspires you?

My mother. True inspiration and taught me that I could do anything!

bloomsbury-farm-lady-farmer-lauren

For more of her farming journey, follow Lauren on Instagram & Facebook!

 

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Arden at Great Day Gardens

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Arden at Great Day Gardens

arden-jones-great-day-gardens

I am Arden (sometimes known as Garden) Jones and I live on a farm owned by my family in Bedford County, Virginia. I am farming 1 acre with my husband Michael and several seasonal employees (all young ladies this year!). We raise mixed vegetables for market and a small CSA and my husband bakes the most delicious wood fired sourdough breads. We are often crossing gender boundaries as he bakes and I take care of most of the construction projects on the farm. In the garden, we work together and our relationship has been strengthened by our learning to cooperate in this way.

I feel like I have always been a Lady Farmer at heart! Maybe it all started when my grandfather gave me a toolbox with real tools for my 7th birthday. Or when I learned about permaculture at Nature Camp when I was 13. After graduating college I was looking for a way to express creativity, make a positive impact on the world, be outside and be my own boss, and farming was the obvious choice. I learned from some amazing mentors and then I got out there and did it.

Reflections on why she does what she does, living slow, and Lady Farmers –

I think farming is so gratifying because it is so challenging. The practice of relinquishing control when mother nature takes hold is humbling. Yes, it can feel overwhelming at times, like when winds tear through our tunnels or rains have us ankle deep in mud, but that is all balanced out by a bounty the next season. The beauty of abundance, in our crops and in the living soil, is a most pleasing sort of wealth. And as we go farther on our farming journey, I am learning to treat the hardest of times as lessons in patience and faith. I am inspired so much by my peers-other farmers in our community and all around the world- by their ingenuity and benevolence. They are the best people!

great-day-gardens

To me, slow living is making the time to enjoy all the wonderful food we and our farming neighbors produce! Meal times are the best times, and when we are able to rest and recuperate, we go back to work with a more positive outlook, so the emotional sustainability is super important.

We work to build our soil with cover crops, compost, and minimal tillage, and result is that our farm becomes more resilient to pests, disease, and the forces of nature. We hope not just to sustain, but to improve our land with every season.

Is it too much to say that a Lady Farmer is who will save humanity? She uses her brain and her hands to solve problems and she cares deeply about nature and other people. In our community I am growing good food for people, but along with that I end up doing a lot of education and networking also. I see myself as just one part of the local food movement and I make an effort to encourage and support other farmers. We are really lucky here to have a monthly gathering where we see other farmers in our area and share food and ideas. This communication is essential to making progress and bringing more local food to more people.

 

arden-jones-great-day-gardens

 

Advice for aspiring Lady Farmers

My advice for any woman is to pick a partner that supports your dreams and who shares your vision for your slow lifestyle. Is it natural that farming is hard on relationships, but the first year is the hardest, and if you can survive that together, you will know more about one another than many old married couples do! And if you aren’t one for monogamous relationships, surround yourself with a community of people who love farming too. You can have the perfect farm, but you’ll be awfully lonely without friends to feed! If you can’t farm- JOIN A CSA! Seriously, just try it. It may provide you a way to connect with food and farming that you never imagined. Or if CSA isn’t for you, start shopping at the market the way you do the grocery store and keep your money in your community.

Who inspires you?

My 92 year old, fiercely independent, sharp as a tack grandmother.

arden-jones-great-day-gardens

 

Thank you Arden!

For more of her farming journey, follow Arden on Instagram & Facebook!

 

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Eva at Heartstrong Farm

Lady Farmer Spotlight: Eva at Heartstrong Farm

lady-farmer-heartstrong-farm

Eva is a young and beginning farmer growing produce, flowers, and herbs in the Piedmont of North Carolina, along Highway 64 near the town of Staley. She currently owns and operates Heartstrong Farm by herself, marketing mainly through a CSA as well as local farmers markets. The farm is Certified Naturally Grown, and she grows with permaculture and biodynamic methodologies in mind.

Her path in the soil began while volunteering and worshipping at St. Mary’s Convent in Sewanee, TN. After helping to grow lavender there for Thistle Farms, she was inspired to pursue more experiences in the soil, leading her to WWOOF on a permaculture farmstead in New Hampshire, and then on to other gardens and farms in Tennessee, North Carolina, Vermont, and Florida.

Her varied experiences in those climates and communities inspired her to pursue her own farm operation, Heartstrong Farm. We asked her a few questions and here are some highlights from our conversation.

Reflections on why she does what she does, living slow, and Lady Farmers –

Simply put, I do what I do for love. When I first came to working in the soil, I was dealing with a lot of internal hardship and found that the more I literally grew, the more I inwardly healed. My heart became stronger through working the earth, sowing seeds, and harvesting the resulting abundance. The land is so giving, if we do her justice, we receive delicious produce, beautiful blooms, healing medicine, clean air, fresh water, biodiversity, and so much more. I also grow for and because of community. I really believe in the community supported agriculture model of farming, as food is a way to connect with everyone – across all lines. Everyone has to eat! So, as I prepare the soil and seeds for the 2018 harvest, my inspiration is definitely my CSA membership, my farm family.

lady-farmer-heartstrong-farm

Slow living to me means presence in action. It means feeling the soil as my hands are in it, hearing the peepers and hawks as I work outside, tasting the richness of earth through root veggies and brightness of sun through supple greens, and enjoying the process of a hard earned pickle or fermented kraut. I do think generally in this life we move too fast – even in the things that bring us joy. So, in my work and in my play I try to really pay attention, learn, and enjoy through my senses. I forget where this quote comes from, but it’s powerful – there’s no need to rush, all will still be waiting. Go slow.

Lady Farmer to me means a woman in the world cultivating the world she believes in. I believe in an environmentally sound community driven local food system, and that is what I strive to cultivate through my farm. I feel that my role in this community has been to connect others at the table, through a shared love of cooking, good food, old stories, the land, and a growing fondness for each other. My role here ties into my vision for the broader world of a connected and natural food system, and I really do believe in thinking globally but acting locally. There’s so much good work to be done everywhere.

lady-farmer-heartstrong-farm

 

Advice for aspiring Lady Farmers

My advice to aspiring lady farmers comes from a prior mentor of mine Sylvia Davatz – the real work is in doing. Ask the questions! If you have an idea, ask others about it. If you need land, put out an inquiry. If you need some financial support, share your project. I have been absolutely blown away by the resources, land, and communal support that has been made available to me as a result of asking, sharing. People certainly have a desire to bless others, so if you can … pursue apprenticeships on farms, access books on the kinds of operations you’re interested in, and connect with others doing the work, I really think you can make your farm dream happen. That’s how it happened for me!

Who inspires you?

My mother, Alice Waters, the Sisters of St. Mary’s, Rep. Chellie Pingree, all my inspiring lady friends – farmers and otherwise!

lady-farmer-heartstrong-farm

 

 

 

 

Thank you Eva!

For more of her farming journey, follow Eva on Instagram & Facebook!